Top Tips for the SATs Reading Paper with Emily Weston
**By Emily Weston** Since the first ‘new’ SATs paper arrived in 2016, there has been a range of recommended tips and strategies to help children answer the questions to texts that are longer and trickier than ever before. Reading fluency is vital for children to do well, alongside applying the variety of skills we know that they will also need to unlock questions by finding evidence and making inferences. Knowing how long these SATs have been around – despite not being tested for the last 2 years – I didn’t want to write this blog to tell you something you already know. If you’re new to Year 6, hopefully this will help you find new techniques you can use to help your class to develop skills, but also, and most importantly, confidence. If you’re an old hand, I still hope there are some hints or tips that you might not have thought of, or that you can reframe something you already do in a new or fresh way. ### Skimming and Scanning With the length of the texts, this can be a key time-saver that children need to feel confident with when approaching their test. One key tool I’ve used is Where’s Wally? Not only can you search for Wally and his friends (timed races!), but you can ask questions that ask for more literal answers (what does the sign on the red building say?), or even ones that show more understanding (what pun is mentioned on the page?). By using a quick activity that involves pictures rather than text, we can teach an important reading skill in a really accessible way for children. ### Consistent exposure to test-style questions One thing I’ve learned is not to be worried about showing children SATs style questions through the year. Normalise these by giving them access throughout the year – the more they become familiar with the questions, and apply the skills you teach them, the better. This isn’t teaching to the test, but more giving children a confidence that allows them to innately access the skills they need rather than feel that they are grasping for a memory in a high-pressured situation. ### Vocabulary is vital Often, it is understanding of vocabulary that can really hinder children’s understanding of the test. I say test, because it is not just the text they can find tricky to access without an understanding of words; the language of the questions is important to consider, too. What does it mean to ‘find and copy’ an answer? How do we ‘identify’ or ‘explain’? By allowing children to develop a clear understanding of what they are being asked to do, we are halving the brain power needed to answer the question! ### Build reading for pleasure I’ve no doubt that this is something that every teacher aspires to achieve within their classroom, but it cannot be understated how important it is for children not to see reading as a chore. Alongside access to test questions, give children time to explore a range of texts and books within their own time. Give them access to newspapers, fiction, non-fiction, poetry – anything and everything! The more they see and enjoy reading a range of texts, the less daunting it will be when they come across unseen extracts within the SATs. In the end, children need to feel happy and confident in order to succeed in the SATs. I don’t want to teach you to suck eggs – but everything I have listed is what underpins my approach in my classroom. If children love to read, they’ll enjoy (okay, maybe a bit of a stretch!) and feel assured that they are capable of completing the test to their best ability.